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Ear hematoma

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Ear hematoma in dogs are not uncommon. 

Dog ears come in many sizes and shapes.  Some are big and floppy, others are smaller and pointy.  One thing they all have in common is the potential for an ear hematoma to develop.  Although ear hematomas can occur in any dog or even in cats, they are most common in dogs with floppy ears.

Dogs often shake their heads, especially when they are wet or when the ear is irritated, such as with an ear infection.  As the ears are shaken back and forth, tiny blood vessels in the ear flap can rupture, causing bleeding under the skin.  Bleeding can also start if a dog strikes an ear flap against something (eg, a coffee table) while shaking.  The bleeding in the ear flap is irritating, which causes your pet to shake its head even more, setting up a vicious cycle.  Blood and other fluid can continue to accumulate in the ear flap, and the swelling can reach the size of a lemon in some cases.  Sometimes, the hematoma will rupture during a shake, spewing blood in all directions.

Any swelling in the ear flap is suspicious of a hematoma.  The swollen area usually feels warm and squishy, like a bag of fluid.  Your veterinarian will examine the ears for signs of any problems that may have set off head shaking, such as an ear infection or a bite wound.  If an ear hematoma is not treated, the ear flap can eventually scar up, resulting in a deformed ear that may be prone to infections.

Although your vet can drain the fluid out of an ear hematoma with a syringe, the problem almost always returns and more extensive treatment is needed.  Many treatments are used, including surgery to open the hematoma and to insert a temporary drain that will continue to allow fluid to escape.  Often, the ear flap is bandaged alongside the head to allow it to heal.  Your vet will discuss the various treatment options and what is best for your pet.

 

Q&A

What is an ear hematoma?

An ear hematoma is a blood blister under the skin of the ear flap. 

What dogs get ear hematomas?

Ear hematomas can occur in any dog (or even in cats), but are most common in dogs with floppy ears.  Dogs that are frequently wet, or that have dirty or infected ears, will tend to shake there heads more, increasing the risk of hematomas.
 
How do ear hematomas occur?

When dogs shake their heads back and forth (or strike them on an object), tiny blood vessels in the ear flap can rupture, causing bleeding under the skin.  The bleeding in the ear flap is irritating, which causes your pet to shake its head even more, setting up a vicious cycle. 

Do I need to treat this problem?

If an ear hematoma is not treated, the ear flap can eventually scar up, resulting in a deformed ear that may be prone to infections.  Many treatments can be used, including surgery to open the hematoma, or insertion of a temporary drain that will allow fluid to continually escape. 

 

Credit: Written and reviewed by John A. Bukowski, DVM, MPH, PhDand Susan E. Aiello, DVM, ELS
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